Of Philosophers and Kings: Political Philosophy in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear

By Leon Harold Craig

© 2001

This innovative work argues that Shakespeare was as great a philosopher as he was a poet, and that his greatness as a poet derived even more from his power as a thinker than from his genius for linguistic expression. Accordingly, Leon Craig's interpretation of the plays - focusing primarily on Macbeth and King Lear, but including extensive comments on Othello, The Winter's Tale, and Measure for Measure - are intended to demonstrate what can be gained from reading Shakespeare 'philosophically.'

Shakespeare, Craig argues, had a persistent fascination with the relationship between politics and philosophy, and even more precisely, with the idea of a philosophical ruler. Macbeth and King Lear are given detailed exposition for the special light they cast on tensions between philosophy and politics, knowledge and power. They show how the pursuit of an adequate understanding of certain practical issues - transient yet recurring - necessarily leads to considerations that far transcend the particular circumstances in which these practical problems arise. Metaphysics, cosmology, and man's confrontation with nature, were made dramatically manifest by Shakespeare to challenge and promote philosophic activity among his audience and readers.

Unconventional in its approach, but working within the tradition of such critics as Allan Bloom and Harry Jaffa, Craig's book makes a substantial contribution to understanding the general principles of Shakespearean drama.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP000537

  • PUBLISHED MAY 2003

    From: $39.00

    Regular Price: $52.00

    ISBN 9780802086051
  • PUBLISHED MAR 2003

    From: $90.75

    Regular Price: $121.00

Quick Overview

This innovative work argues that Shakespeare was as great a philosopher as he was a poet, and that his greatness as a poet derived even more from his power as a thinker than from his genius for linguistic expression.

Of Philosophers and Kings: Political Philosophy in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear

By Leon Harold Craig

© 2001

This innovative work argues that Shakespeare was as great a philosopher as he was a poet, and that his greatness as a poet derived even more from his power as a thinker than from his genius for linguistic expression. Accordingly, Leon Craig's interpretation of the plays - focusing primarily on Macbeth and King Lear, but including extensive comments on Othello, The Winter's Tale, and Measure for Measure - are intended to demonstrate what can be gained from reading Shakespeare 'philosophically.'

Shakespeare, Craig argues, had a persistent fascination with the relationship between politics and philosophy, and even more precisely, with the idea of a philosophical ruler. Macbeth and King Lear are given detailed exposition for the special light they cast on tensions between philosophy and politics, knowledge and power. They show how the pursuit of an adequate understanding of certain practical issues - transient yet recurring - necessarily leads to considerations that far transcend the particular circumstances in which these practical problems arise. Metaphysics, cosmology, and man's confrontation with nature, were made dramatically manifest by Shakespeare to challenge and promote philosophic activity among his audience and readers.

Unconventional in its approach, but working within the tradition of such critics as Allan Bloom and Harry Jaffa, Craig's book makes a substantial contribution to understanding the general principles of Shakespearean drama.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    'This is an excellent book, one of the best attempts I have seen to look at Shakespeare's plays in light of political philosophy. Indeed it suggests that Shakespeare had his own contribution to make to political philosophy. The book is at once thoughtful, insightful, provocative and eye-opening, and it should be of interest to anyone concerned with Shakespeare.'


    Paul Cantor
    Department of English, University of Virginia

    'Craig has articulated a powerful theory that may serve as a guide for a great deal of subsequent interpretation of Shakespeare's plays, and in doing so, he has provided a touchstone by which many contemporary studies of the political importance and understanding of Shakespeare may be (and should be) judged.'


    Joseph Lane
    The Review of Politics
  • Author Information

    Leon Harold Craig is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.

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